Philly DA Scored for Defending Prosecutorial Misconduct
The recent outrage in Pennsylvania over the scheduled October 3 execution of a man who killed two men who had sexually abused him during his childhood has tarnished the reformer image of Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, exposing him as just another prosecutor willing to trample justice to preserve a death penalty.
When Seth Williams successfully campaigned to become Philadelphia’s top prosecutor a few years ago he used a catchy phrase: “A New Day/A New DA.”
But based on Williams’ recent posturing and positions taken by him, evidence indicates this new DA continues operating in the same old way as his predecessors.
Instead of running his office in accordance with that ‘New Day’ many expected, DA Williams is defending death penalty cases that are stained by prosecutorial misconduct and is pursuing factually bogus charges against victims of police brutality, including one involving a blind man charged with attacking the police who beat him.
The most pronounced example of Williams’ old wine/new bottle stance is his vigorous --and intellectually dishonest -- public relations campaign backing the execution of child-sex abuse victim-turned-murderer Terrance Williams.
A week before the scheduled execution (which was halted by a Philadelphia judge just days before it took place), DA Williams wrote an op-ed article in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which the DA denounced death row inmate Williams for never mentioning his sexual abuse during trial. But putting aside the obvious point that a sex abuse victim might not dare to report such a violation, in his op-ed the DA himself declined to report that prosecutors during that trial had withheld evidence of that very sexual abuse, in the form of police reports about it, from the defense, the court and the jury, in order to enhance the the chances of winning a sentence of death.
The DA’s failure to mention that the prosecution had withheld important mitigating evidence is journalistic misconduct of the same nature as the prosecutorial misconduct he was hiding from readers.
The Philadelphia DA’s Office took a spanking later when, during the same week, a Philadelphia city court judge set aside the death penalty on Terrance Williams and Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, which had earlier met and denied Williams’ request for clemency, reconvened a clemency hearing in his case.
Terrance Williams was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on October 3 for killing one of his abusers. His death warrant had been signed in September by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican former state attorney general who ignored an avalanche of clemency pleas including pleas from former prosecutors, judges, clergy, jurors who convicted Williams and even the wife of one of Williams’ victims, who had informed prosecutors at the time of the trial that her husband had indeed earlier sexually abused his killer.